AUGUSTA – Ending weeks of speculation, Pat LaMarche announced Thursday she will seek the Green Independent Party’s nomination for governor in 2006.
The current national co-chairman of the Green Party of the United States and the party’s national vice presidential candidate in 2004, LaMarche ran as a Green for governor in Maine in 1998 and secured 7 percent of the vote. While hardly adequate to reach a point of contention in that race, it was enough to meet the 5 percent standard needed to maintain the Green Independent Party’s ballot status as an official Maine political party. That same threshold will have to be met again in 2006 for the party to retain its status.
Seven years since her previous run for governor, LaMarche maintained that Maine’s political landscape has changed and that the Green Independent Party is here to stay. She also perceives the 2006 race as winnable.
“Our leaders learn about our lives from news accounts and from lobbyists,” she said during a State House press conference Thursday. “That’s not leading – that’s following. We need a new kind of leader and we need it now. … I feel like we’re strong, we’re rocking, we’re rolling and we’re ready to go.”
LaMarche took out papers Thursday with the state Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices in preparation to run as a publicly funded candidate under the Maine Clean Election Act. She has until April 15 to gather 2,000 signatures and $2,500 in $5 contributions in support of her campaign to meet eligibility requirements under the law. As a clean election candidate for a recognized party, the 45-year-old Yarmouth resident could qualify for as much as $1.8 million in public funds for her campaign.
The candidate’s brief presentation Thursday was short on details of what she hopes to accomplish as governor other than that she would develop platforms to address jobs, health care, education and tax reform. Instead, she stressed her own personal life experiences and made comparable historical references to Maine governors who were neither Republican nor Democrat.
A radio personality – most recently at WMCM in the Central Maine area – LaMarche has taken a leave of absence from her job to run for governor. She highlighted her work with children as a former fund-raiser for the Children’s Miracle Network. As a vice presidential candidate she sought to bring attention to conditions for the homeless by staying at shelters across the country as she campaigned. The Greens drew less than 1 percent of the vote nationally in the 2004 presidential election.
LaMarche said her life experiences distinguish her from other gubernatorial candidates.
“Our leaders have lost the knowledge of the issues that they decide,” she said. “When did they last apply for permits to open a small business? When did they last choose between health insurance and groceries? When did they last look for a job?”
State House political sources believe LaMarche’s entry into the race will make the outcome of the 2006 race even more unpredictable. There is no lack of candidates who have announced their desire to oppose Democratic Gov. John E. Baldacci. They include: Republican Sens. Peter Mills of Cornville; Chandler Woodcock of Farmington; and former GOP U.S. Rep. David Emery of St. George. Other candidates who have declared interest are Republican Stephen Stimpson of Bangor, and independents Alex Hammer of Bangor, Bobby Mills of Biddeford, and Nancy Oden of Jonesboro.
LaMarche’s campaign could be the most damaging to Baldacci since both hope to appeal to liberal-minded Democrats and progressive unenrolled voters. In a close race, LaMarche could peel enough votes away from Baldacci to make him vulnerable to a strong GOP challenger.
The Maine Democratic Party wasted no time Thursday in responding to LaMarche’s candidacy, firing off a press release from state party chairman Pat Colwell who cited numerous reasons why Baldacci had the best environmental record of any candidate. The party’s statement said LaMarche had “struggled” to offer a comprehensive vision for the state.
“Pat LaMarche’s entrance in this race is a reckless misguided decision,” Colwell said. “John Baldacci is the best candidate for governor.”
When informed of Colwell’s remarks, LaMarche chose not to respond directly.
“Next November, the people of Maine will decide who the next governor will be,” she said.